Nicola Menna | Cromogenia Technical Director: “The chemical specialty market is already open to higher costs to fabric sustainable products”
The chemical industry is designing a more sustainable future by investing in more sustainable and biodegradable processes and products and by using raw materials from renewable sources. This strategic plan is also the new roadmap of Cromogenia, a Spanish chemical company referring to national and international level, with which CETIM Technological Centre carries out several R&D projects such as Hormiplast, Powerplast or Novacell. We spoke with its Technical Director, Nicola Menna.
You are an expert in construction chemicals. How does Cromogenia manages to position itself in such a competitive market?
Cromogenia is committed to the development of tailor-made chemical products for the construction sector, being aware that customers’ requirements change according to their applications and, above all, based on their geographical location. The basic raw materials we are supplied with, such as aggregates or cement, radically change the interactions with the chemical molecules we use.
What role does innovation play within this market positioning?
Requirements in the construction industry have evolved in recent decades to meet new parameters such as greater durability, resistance to disasters, new architectural standards or increased welfare of civil society. That is why commodity-based chemical additives are currently being replaced by other high value-added chemical specialities. This allows innovation to become the key factor to be competitive in the market.
Do you see the collaboration with Research Centres to develop this innovation as positive? In your opinion, what advantages have you obtained from developing projects such as Hormiplast or Powerplast carried out with CETIM as examples?
Cromogenia is totally committed to collaboration with Technology Centres. In fact, we currently have eight projects open with different centres in Spain. This collaboration has been fundamental because Cromogenia’s know-how, as in most chemical companies, was basically focused on the chemistry of the different additives without adequately deepening in the interaction with cements/aggregates. In this aspect, CETIM’s contribution has been essential.
What are the challenges to transfer the successful outcome of a research project to the market?
On a business level, this clearly translates into the sales number. On a personal level, persuading a client that one of our products is preferable to a competitor’s one is the ultimate success of the entire process, from molecular structure design to production.
Your company manufactures and commercializes chemical products for many more sectors. Whose are your main product and business lines?
Cromogenia’s business line has become very diversified in recent years. Our core business continues to be the Tanning division, which is the historical sector of the company. In Industrial area we have the Adhesives, Coatings, Construction, Metalworking, Water-based Polyurethanes, Performance Chemicals (biocides, catalysts, polycarbonates, etc.), Textile and Water Treatment divisions.
Cromogenia is currently developing different R&D projects in the field of biosustainable solutions such as Novacell, investigating the chemical modification of micro and nanocellulose and its application in polyurethane adhesives. What role do you think bio-based materials will play in the future of the chemical industry?
All future strategic projects of Cromogenia are focused on developing more sustainable and biodegradable processes and products and possibly, on the use of raw materials from renewable sources. This challenge touches practically all of our divisions. Fossil raw materials will decrease more and more over time. But today, there are already many renewable alternatives on the specialty market, which is already open to higher costs for dispensing eco-friendly products. This, in the near future, will become a fundamental requirement to be competitive since it will be necessary to adapt to the always stricter standards that the final market foresees for finished products such as leather, textiles or food packaging, above all.
To conclude the interview, I imagine that being the Technical Director of such a diversified chemical company will be a daily challenge.
My previous knowledge was focused on construction chemicals and leather. Cromogenia has many production and R&D lines and I am lucky enough to have a valuable group of collaborators without, of course, ignoring my own professional knowledge. My training and the training of my collaborators is fundamental for the development of the projects foreseen in Cromogenia’s industrial plan. Let’s just say that, in short, I don’t have time to get bored!
Cromogenia Units, founded in Barcelona in 1942, develops and manufactures a wide variety of chemical additives for a wide range of industrial sectors, from leather, textiles, construction, coatings, adhesives, water treatment or metallurgy, etc.